Browsing the archives for the Urban Homesteading category.

We’re leaving the suburbs for farm life next week!

We are just counting down the days until moving day. I’m both excited and a bit shocked that moving day is just a few days away. The walls are literally lined with packed boxes, all the obvious things are packed… now we have all the hidden spaces to pack up (the garage, the attic, the storage areas, etc). It’s kind of a waiting game now. A wait-a-few-more-days-and try-not-to-kill-each-other kind of thing, you know?

Me and the girls are really getting practice with recognizing when it’s time to take a break and to decompress. Being cooped up in a house full of boxes with moving day anxiety looming is getting the best of ALL of us. They are being allowed to watch the portable DVD player in their bed/ nest at will these last few days because, amazingly, it unwinds them enough to takes naps (which they never normally do). I’m eating lots of chocolate & sweets to decompress : /

I sat down to pay the bills this week and realized, we have no income to pay those bills with yet… Nathan’s last pay check comes this week and is basically spent already on the bills from the last two weeks. Grayson had his last insured doctors appointment this week too. My kids will soon be uninsured!  We didn’t sell our house, so we are still having to pay the mortgage and the utilities on the house until it sells. Things are getting real in terms of lack of security but I know the anxiety and minor panic will subside and that things will work themselves out soon. Just a few more days till all the fantastic parts begin.

The girls have next to nothing left out for playing with and they’ve already gotten bored of climbing and jumping off the stacks of boxes. Now they want constant attention and to be entertained which isn’t so easy when you are bouncing a teething baby on your hip (a 6 mo 19lb baby!) while packing up the house plus policing backyard turkeys and chickens. We are just doing chores, packing and kind of taking in the day-to-day happenings with the animals & with nature till moving day is here. Everly noticed something kind of cool while doing her plant watering chore today:

So, the girls had a good time observing all the little the praying mantis. They also really enjoy picking strawberries from the garden in the morning and again at night. They average about a pound a day. 

Our injured turkey is healing up nicely, we just discovered signs of a few more “first time” eggs from our new hens and our compost pile clutch of chicken eggs are still warm and possibly growing babies.

Can you believe I found a whopping 15 eggs in the compost bin yesterday? After candling them I came up with 5 that might be developing (they had resemblance of a shadow inside that moved when the egg was spun). In another few days we might be able to candle and check for forming blood vessels. The girls are kind of excited about the prospects of chicks hatching from our compost bin, though, I have no idea how we’ll move a clutch of eggs and a broody hen that are inside the compost bin without disruption. Ideas?

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

Tales from the backyard flock: Are they cooked or do they have chicks in them?

For the last week, maybe two, we have had significantly fewer eggs each day from our six laying hens. Initially I thought that the hens that were not laying had nutritional imbalances since they’ve been eating chicks starter food (against our wishes). We’ve recently integrated our baby chicks to our adult flock, our Rhode Island Reds much prefer eating chick starter it seems. Chick starter has a high protein content and adult birds shouldn’t be eating it but I’m not standing out there and shooing the hens away from the chick feed, three times a day, right now… so those stinking hens are gorging themselves. 

Also, my new chicks are integrating to the main flock right now and we are preparing to move in just a few days so our chicken coop situation is in transition. I also figured the stress of the transition was possibly impacting the egg output from the hens.

Today there was quite a squawk fest out of the chicken coop and my girls anxiously ran out to collect the eggs. However, there were no eggs to be found. So we went about our garden and backyard chores. I opened the compost bin to get some fresh compost for one of the plants and I left it open for the chickens to scratch around in since were getting ready to move and we have no intention of taking cooking compost with us. I had the compost bin open earlier in the week for the same reason but husbands who work outside the homestead (he has just 3 work days left!) miss lots of strategic decision making and close the compost bin back up thinking they are being helpful.

Anyway, after a while we went back inside had some cold water ate breakfast and we heard the chickens squawking again. We went out to try to collect eggs and once again there were none to be found.

They always say if you’re missing eggs, go on an egg hunt.


Updates on the massive poultry flock in the tiny suburban backyard.

Before I became a turkey owner:

  1. I wasn’t prepared for how social they’d be towards people.
  2. I didn’t believe that they were truly NOT smart creatures.
  3. I hadn’t realized that they fight, like roosters do.
  4. I didn’t expect to be treating the wounds and checking on them as vigilantly as I do with my kids.

Right now our turkeys are too large for their brooder, but too small to live out with the chickens… and we move in a week… so our current turkey run setup isn’t very high tech or secure. As a result the juvenile chickens keep getting in the turkey run and somehow the turkeys keep getting out and mixing with the chickens. This mean our turkeys are getting pecked each morning until we come out and separate them again.

This morning was particularly bad. One of our Bronze Broad-breasted Turkeys was quite bloody and is missing most of the skin on the top of her head! I came inside and told Nathan, “looks like I’ll be whipping up some kind of healing salve for the turkey’s head today in addition to packing up the house!”. It truly is NEVER a dull moment around here. 

So, the injured turkey is confined and I’ve rinsed her wound out. She’s not happy to have it rinsed, she’s rubbing it on her back feathers while also scratching it with her foot. It appears to be really bothering her. I’ve got to run Everly to school, then I can come home to rinse the turkey again and figure out how to make a wound dressing for her.

I’m thinking I’ll make a clay wound dressing with bentonite clay and some essential oils to keep it protected, though I doubt it will say on her head since she’s scratching so much.

In other turkey news, we are “tom watching”! Basically we are pondering the sex of the turkey poults. It’s getting to the point that through observation of appearance and behavior, you can begin to figure out which are male and which are female. This tiny tom is posing for you… Are you impressed?

Tom turkey puts on a show for you

Addie was impressed! Note: you can see the injured bronze’s head just in front of the tom in this photo.

I went ahead and let some of our neighbors on Facebook know that our roosters would be gone soon. I figured the unmistakable crowing from one rooster plus the somewhat mistakable crowing of the other three are getting some neighborly attention. What do you think? Please don’t mind the mess and the bald yard… 18 chickens & 6 turkeys will do that to a small space.

Can you spot the roosters in the video of our flock from this morning? There are four, a Golden Laced Wyandotte, two Leghorns and a Buff Orpington.

When your backyard flock grows. From chicken rearing to turkeys!

We were out of chick starter so a trip to the local farm supply store was on the agenda for the day. When visiting the farm supply store we have to visit the baby chick area if the kids are with us because kids LOVE to see baby birds and rabbits (even though the backyard is already full of them).

Did I mention that we got 12 additional baby chicks at the start of this spring? We did! They were on rebate at our local store, we got 10 for free. Can’t pass up free chicks! But we didn’t just get them because they were free… Our current flock of 6 produces from 2-4 eggs per day right now, our oldest hens are about 4 years old… That’s when egg production tends to decline. We used to get an egg a day from each hen. So we knew that we’d eventually need new layers for optimal egg efficiency.

Anyway, now the spring chicks are outside in their own confined run, growing and eating lots while they grow accustomed to our older hens through the protection of wire fencing… Did I mention they are eating lots?!

Today we were on a mission to buy some much needed feed and on the way past the live birds we were reeled in by yet another great deal. $2.00 clearance Turkeys! We had to buy a minimum of 6 turkeys, costing $12 but we are now the proud owners of 6 broad breasted turkeys, 3 bronze and 3 white.

The livestock grows on our little homestead. We are now raising Turkeys!

I don’t know that we’ll choose a broad breasted turkey in future turkey raising endeavors, we typically avoid altered foods and the broad breasted turkey is an altered breed. It’s designed to grow rapidly and is bred to get pretty large compared to heritage turkey breeds that grow slower and live longer. If we ever order turkeys I’m sure we’ll research more and probably pick a different breed but for now we are doing a practice run with these broad breasted turkeys.

We are really brushing up on our turkey raising knowledge right now. It is exciting to be trying something new this year and it’s a welcome distraction from waiting till our house sells ;)

How long until you have turkey to eat?

In as little as 3 1/2 months we could process them and fill our freezer with homegrown turkey! Although, we will likely want to wait as long as possible to butcher if circumstances permit. I’m thinking if they aren’t huge and if they are they are free ranging = not costing us a fortune in feed costs then I’d be glad to let them live until right before Turkey day… The longer they live the less space they are taking up in my freezer. However, this means they’ll need to be alive for the next 7 months. Typically at approximately 20 weeks or 5 months they are slaughter ready. At the 20 week mark the hens can be close to 30 lbs and the toms can be 40-50 lbs.

Broad Breasted Turkey mating, hatching and egg production.

Turkeys are sold as straight run, so there are toms and hens mixed when you buy. If we don’t have to butcher them this summer and we can put them off till fall we cold even have some turkey eggs to enjoy! Turkey hens lay eggs at 6-8 months of age. I’m sure the eggs are huge and delicious too. Which brings us to the idea of hatching your own turkeys…

Broad breasted turkeys are said to be physically unable naturally breed due to their breast size so your turkey eggs are likely to be infertile. The Toms could try mating with the hens but they physically don’t achieve successful fertilization for a number of reasons.

One Backyard Chickens member states:

“They can breed it is just that it is not efficient and the tom will crush/kill more hens then he would get bred and fertilized. You can successfully breed a BB back to a heritage. Hen will lay and the eggs will hatch, she will not lay as many as a heritage and she will not be able to sit on the nest as she will crush the eggs, more likely then not. But yes they can bred and it can be done just not very efficient.”

How much does it cost to feed a turkey? What will your finished turkey have cost you?

The estimates I’ve seen say that a turkey will eat the equivalent of 80lbs of bagged feed from hatching to the 20 week mark which puts them at costing about $1.20 per pound of live weight at a 20 week processing. That means feed costs for a 20 week slaughter could be as low as $36ish for a hen and up to $60 in the case of a large tom. This is cool by me since when we looked at buying free range local birds for thanksgiving last year they were running $75 each.

We figure we can adjust our slaughter timing based on feeds costs and growth rates. We are thinking we’ll have the means to free range them very soon and that will likely make things more cost effective and possibly will allow for a longer life span.

Can I raise Chickens and Turkeys Together?

This was our first question in the store. We don’t have room for separate runs and confinement. The only issue with cohabitation of turkeys and chickens is Blackhead Disease.

Blackhead disease is primarily a disease of young turkeys. Chickens are more resistant to the effects of the infection but may act as carriers of the disease-causing organism.

Turkeys may acquire the blackhead disease directly from the droppings of infected birds. Read more about blackhead disease here.

Disease aside, the only other issue to look out for in cohabitation of turkeys and chickens is aggressive behavior and territory battles. Things like turkeys trying to breach a chickens neck and such…

We plan to raise our birds together. We figured we could be economical to just add turkeys to our existing flock of chickens.

One down side to our impulse poultry buying is that we’ve found now ourselves with 6 poults (baby turkeys) and no turkey feed. Unlike chicks, turkeys need a higher protein containing feed. Our assumption that they could eat our baby chick starter food was WRONG. Don’t make the same mistake.

Poults need 28% protein to fuel their fast growth in the first 8 weeks of life, any higher protein amounts will cause growth problems. After they are 8 weeks old they can be reduced to a feed with 20-22% protein, at 14 weeks they can have something closer to 18-20% protein. The un-medicated chick starter we have contains 18% protein and our regular layer crumbles are only 16% protein.

If you find yourself in a similar predicament with only chicken feed when you come home with poults this little trick will save you. You can make an emergency poult feed from 50% rolled oats & 50% cornmeal by pulsing it in a food processor until it resembles typical poultry crumbles. I just made some and the poults, whom were rejecting the offered chick starter feed, are now eating! Note, this emergency feed should only be used in a pinch and for no longer than a day or you could wind up with some majorly deficient turkeys that could even die.

Feeding chickens and turkeys the same feed isn’t advised because of the varied protein requirements. Plus, the vitamin and mineral requirements of turkeys are much different from chickens… So until the turkeys are older and foraging for most of their own food, they’ll need their own special feed that is separate from the chickens. Guess I’ll be off to the farm supply store tomorrow for some turkey starter!

Have you raised turkeys before? How did it go?

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

Butter, oh butter

Making butter is quite easy but for some reason I’ve always viewed it as wasteful and unpractical. I guess I just assumed making butter requires you to use raw milk in it’s entirety (and raw milk is quite the commodity!). Plus, only a small portion of butter results from the whole gallon of milk and I was under the impression the liquid left over once the butter separates is a waste product.

I’ve never felt inclined to make butter myself. Yet I LOVE me some raw butter and as of late it’s been pretty hard to come by… and it so good for you.

The most healthful raw butter is a springtime commodity in the milking world.

Cows fed on rapidly growing spring grass produce milk that contains high levels of beta carotene and five times the amount of CLA, an essential fatty acid that has a strong anti-cancer properties.  (more…)

Big changes are in the works for this homestead!

Over the weekend we got a TON of outside work done here on the half-acre homestead because we just put our house on the market! That’s right, we can’t put it off any longer. Our house is in less that perfect showing condition and is VERY lived in with the five of us crammed in here but we have to at least give selling a try. (more…)

How does anyone with an actual job have time to do all of these crunchy things?!

stay-at-home-momA while back I was the target of some crunchy flaming, as some of you know. Apparently people don’t believe I actually do all the crunchy things I’ve written about and shared here on the blog and it became this debate/ venting session for all of them. Anyway, one of the comments made was…

Does she work or is the blog her full time gig?  How does anyone will an actual job have time to do all of those things? All I do is cloth diaper and I feel like it takes 9 million hours a month (it doesn’t. It just feels that way). I can’t imagine doing all of those other things, too. (more…)

A good deed for puppy = madness for the homestead

Today I took the girls out to the garden for our daily chores. We went out back near the pond today to pick from our other blackberry patch, where there are currently chiggers (thanks to a neighbor’s seriously overgrown grass back there). We have tomatoes & blackberries needing picking, some general bug removal and various other garden chores like spreading compost and planting seeds.

Our work was interrupted by a cute puppy freeing it’s self from the neighbor’s yard and coming right for us…

Now, this neighbor that owns the puppy also owns another young dog that frequently escapes their yard so when I saw the puppy escape their yard I knew acting fast was necessary. But a pregnant lady with 2 young kids can only act so quickly – and I was not quick enough.

Garden murder and more…

As avid organic gardeners, our days are spent waging war on garden enemies. Typically it’s silly stuff like picking cabbage worms or squash beetles (or similar) off our plants and then feeding them to the chickens. The girls are my little gaarden warriors, they assist me in collecting bugs in a bucket… (more…)

Reuse and repurposing: Our goal- Throwing less into dumps

There are many ways to recycle, reuse and conserve from day to day. You just have to look at things differently. As I become more and more earth friendly I discover new ways to reporpose, reuse and recycle.
For me, a focus on repourposing and reuse has been what we’ve continued to expand on. Can you believe this family of 4 only fills a regular treash can with dump-bound trash about every 2-3 weeks?
We’ve dramatically reduced the about of stuff that is dump-bound by:
  1. Composting kitchen scraps or giving it to our rabbits & chickens.
  2. Hauling our own recycling to a recycling center once a month.
  3. Basing our buying choices partly on product packaging.
  4. Buying less throwaway stuff, spending less money.
  5. Reusing things like mad.

Since it’s earth day, I’d like to share some of what we’ve got going on here at home where reuse is concerned and I’d love for you to share what you having going too. The more ideas we compile the “greener” we’ll all be right? (more…)